Two houses shaped like boats sit on a hillside in a residential neighborhood not far from Coastal 101 in Encinitas. The Boathouses (not house boats) are authentic architectural representations of boats and are equipped with a mariner’s wheel and chart desk in the pilot house, a gallery, portholes, cabins and a rudder.
The dual Boathouses were designed and built in 1929 with pieces of wood salvaged from two historic buildings that were demolished in 1928 – The Moonlight Beach Dance Parlor (at Moonlight Beach Dance Pavilion with a dance hall and bathhouse,) and the third floor of Encinitas Hotel. The unusually short wood slats provided extra challenges for boat builder Miles Kellogg, a maritime engineer from Michigan. His father was a sea captain, and Miles, himself, was inspired by the ocean setting in Encinitas. Having grown up near the Great Lakes, the resourceful and creative guy didn’t leave a set of architectural plans (and didn’t work from plans, according to references) when he built the mock vessels and the four-unit apartment complex behind them.
Little did the creative craftsman and designer know that his Boathouse legacy would stir the entire population of the city to rally around his homes as a cause. Creating a non-profit organization to preserve the unique, local treasures that reflect the North San Diego city’s penchant for preservation, the goal of saving these local Encinitas landmarks was accomplished in 2009-2010 when the City Council helped fund purchase of the Boathouses, property and four-unit residential complex behind the crazy homes so that they would remain for generations to come.
Without formal plans to present to various preservation entities and organizations, a project utilizing LiDAR technology was employed. High-speed pulsed laser light collected massive numbers of data points from signals reflected off of surfaces of the uniquely shaped buildings. Given the Boathouses’ irregular shapes, this method helped create sets of schematics that were presented and used to secure status on the National Register of Historic Places for the category of vernacular architecture. A giant donut-shaped building or hot dog shaped booth are examples of odd architecture that sometimes qualifies under this category.
When you go inside the Boathouses, everything is quite small and feels almost miniature in size. From the street view, the houses look like boats. As you head to the rear of the structures, they take on boxy shapes more like houses. The extra room acquired from this design was needed to make the houses truly livable. The boards used in construction were too short for a standard building. Goals are to open one of the buildings to the public as a museum. When I passed by some years ago, the renters were amiable surfer types who were glad to let strangers in and take a peak at the inside of their little homes.
Thanks to the Encinitas Preservation Association who helped round up $1.55 million for the land purchase, Encinitas Boathouses have been preserved for the benefit of all to be held in a public trust of preservation forever.
Encinitas is known for its memorable landmarks such as a Noah’s Ark and animals in Cardiff that survived till 1960.